MOCRA Exhibitions

Colombian artist Erika Diettes interviewed and photographed women who were forced to witness the torture and murder of their loved ones during that country’s armed conflict. The moving black-and-white portraits, printed on large panels of fine silk, have been exhibited in sacred sites across the world.

Erika Diettes, Sudarios #20, 2007. Digital black and white photo printed on silk. Courtesy of the artist.


Erika Diettes
Sudarios #20 
2011
digital photograph on silk
7.48 x 4.4 ft
image courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Erika Diettes: Sudarios


September 25 - December 4, 2016

Extended through December 11, 2016

Sunday, September 25     1:30 p.m.
lecture by the artist: “Stories Told from the Threshold”    followed by an opening reception    free and open to the public

Wondering where to park for the lecture and opening reception? Click here.

Regional Arts Commission logo

Erika Diettes' lecture is part of the MOCRA Voices podcast and lecture series and is made possible through the financial support of the Regional Arts Commission.  

Sudarios info sheet

     Download an informational brochure with sample images.


Memento Mori catalogue thumbnail Sudarios catalogue thumbnail

Two catalogues accompany the exhibition. 

Memento Mori: A Testament to Life is a lavishly illustrated, two-volume catalogue documenting three projects by Erika Diettes: Río Abajo, Sudarios, and Relicarios. It includes an Artist's Statement, essay by Ileana Diéguez, and conversation between Erika Diettes and Anne Wilkes Tucker, all in English and Spanish, along with nearly 150 images.

Sudarios includes essays by Ileana Diéguez, Virginia de la Cruz Lichet, and Charles Guice, along with 24 images.

The catalogues are available for purchase at MOCRA during the exhibition. They also can be purchased online in the MOCRA store.


General Exhibition Information

Hours:  Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
Admission:  free, with suggested donation of $5/adults, $1/students and children

Directions and Parking information

Group visit information 


About the exhibition

Colombian artist Erika Diettes explains that her work “is inspired by the extremely complex social, political, and cultural situation that exists in Colombia, along with theoretical questions raised by my reaction to the unrelenting violence that my country has experienced for decades.” This violence stems from long-running conflict between Colombian government forces and the FARC rebel group (resulting in 260,000 people dead and millions displaced) as well as fighting between rival drug cartels and law enforcement. In the face of so much violence, Diettes says, “I have decided to bear witness to that violence, and to give the victims—both those murdered and disappeared and their survivors—voice through my art.”

Erika Diettes, Sudarios (2007) installed in Barichara, Colombia, June 2012. Courtesy of the artist.


My work is inspired by the extremely complex social, political, and cultural situation that exists in Colombia, along with theoretical questions raised by my reaction to the unrelenting violence that my country has experienced for decades. I have decided to bear witness to that violence, and to give the victims—both those murdered and disappeared and their survivors—voice through my art.

Erika Diettes

Erika Diettes
Sudarios 
2011
installation at Ex Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico City, May 2012

 

Diettes draws upon her training as both an artist and an anthropologist by bringing forth work originating in the direct testimonies of the families of victims of violence, as well as in objects belonging to them. For her 2011 series Sudarios, she set up a studio in the Colombian province of Antioquia, a region that has endured intense violence. She interviewed at length and photographed women who had been forced to witness the torture and murder of their loved ones. As Diettes notes, “The purpose of this kind of violence is not only to kill people, it’s to create witnesses, instill terror, and control a region.” The resulting twenty photographs are intimate portraits of women reliving “the moment that divided her life in two.”

Printed on silk panels over seven feet in height, the images take on a ghostly, ethereal quality that suggests the ways in which grief can leave people “alive, but not living.” Appropriately, sudario is the Spanish word for “shroud,” especially a funerary cloak to cover a deceased body. But the word can also refer to the burial cloth of Christ to which, according to tradition, the image of Jesus’ face and body were miraculously transferred. The panels are displayed hanging at different heights, so that they become, as critic Ileana Diéguez suggests, “an accumulation of suspended pain.” The women become both protagonists and objects of study and contemplation, encompassing pain, loss and mourning. But more than being a testimonial to pain and death, the works also give evidence to life after horrific events. As the artist says, they are also “testaments to dignity and to the twin desires of seeking justice and honoring the dead.”

Erika Diettes, Sudarios #1, 2007. Digital black and white photo printed on silk. Courtesy of the artist.


When the women were talking about their loved ones, there was one moment that was very intimate, it was a moment of profound silence, the moment where they closed their eyes, ... It's like they are alone in that particular moment when they realize that life is no longer going to be as it was. It's the before and the after. ... After you witness something like that, you cannot be the same.

Erika Diettes

Erika Diettes
Sudarios #1 
2011
digital photograph on silk
7.48 x 4.4 ft
image courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Diettes displays her work in the (frequently poor and isolated) communities where her subjects live, for whom the work often becomes an instrument of mourning and healing. Most often the works are shown in churches, so that, in the words of Charles Guice, “Diettes elevates their burden to a spiritual one, their suffering acknowledged and dignified in that most sacred of spaces. The larger-than-life-scale overwhelms us, as if to suggest the enormity of the violence that lay hidden behind their eyes, and like martyrs seeking redemption, their presence invites us to share in their burden.”

MOCRA, located in a building originally used as a chapel for over thirty-five years, is a highly appropriate venue for the Sudarios, and only the third U.S. site where they have been exhibited. At MOCRA, the twenty images will be suspended from the nearly thirty-foot high ceiling of the nave gallery. MOCRA is honored to bring this haunting and challenging work to St. Louis, a community in which many residents are also living with and addressing traumas both past and present.

MOCRA thanks Martha Schneider Gallery for generous assistance in arranging this exhibition.

Erika Diettes, Sudarios #19, 2007. Digital black and white photo printed on silk. Courtesy of the artist.


Erika Diettes
Sudarios #19 
2011
digital photograph on silk
7.48 x 4.4 ft
image courtesy of the artist

 

 

About the artist

Erika Diettes (b. 1978) is a Colombian visual artist and social anthropologist who explores issues of memory, pain, absence, and death in a variety of mediums from her multidisciplinary perspective. Her work has been exhibited in unique spaces linked to re-memoration processes developed by the victims' movements in Colombia as well as at other venues, including the Museums of Modern Art of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and Baranquilla in Colombia, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago de Chile, at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Fotofest Biennial in Houston, the Festival de la Luz in Buenos Aires, the Ballarat Foto Biennale in Australia, the Malta Festival in Poznán, Poland, and at CENTER in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Museo de Antioquia (Colombia) and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, as well as important public and private collections in Colombia and the United States.

Erika Diettes, Sudarios (2007) installed in Medellín, Colombia, October 2012. Courtesy of the artist.


Diettes elevates their burden to a spiritual one, their suffering acknowledged and dignified in that most sacred of spaces. The larger-than-life-scale overwhelms us, as if to suggest the enormity of the violence that lay hidden behind their eyes, and like martyrs seeking redemption, their presence invites us to share in their burden.

Charles Guice

Erika Diettes
Sudarios 
2011
installation at Templo El Señor de las Misericordias, Medellín, Colombia, October 2012

 


Additional links

Artist's website

Sudarios in the media

     Listen to an interview with Erika Diettes on the St. Louis Public Radio program "St. Louis on the Air"

     Read about Sudarios in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

     Sudarios was listed among important artworks grappling with Colombia's violence by the news magazine Semana (en español)

     Additional media coverage of Sudarios

------

National Center for Historical Memory report "Basta Ya! Columbia: Memories of War and Dignity" 

BBC introduction to the Colombian conflict (slightly out-of-date)
 

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